Minnesota has two variations on Fleeing Police crimes. One is Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle. The other is Fleeing Police – Other Than Vehicle.
Both crimes can be found in Minnesota Statutes Section 609.487.
Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle
Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle is now a felony. The base felony carries a three year maximum; while enhancers for substantial bodily harm carries a five year max, great bodily harm up to seven years, and death up to 40 years. But the most common charge is the base level, Fleeing Police in a Motor Vehicle (no injuries).
In addition to the criminal penalties, upon conviction the court will certify the conviction to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which will then revoke the convicted defendant’s driver’s license as a result.
“Motor vehicle” means every self-propelled vehicle, including snowmobiles, off-road recreational vehicles, and motorboats.
Fleeing Police – Not in a Vehicle
The “Other than in a Vehicle” version of the offense is similar, except the penalty is a misdemeanor rather than a felony. And, since it does not involve a motor vehicle, Minnesota has no driver’s license revocation.
“Knows or should reasonably know the same to be a peace officer”
Every criminal law requires factual proof that various “elements” or ingredients of the criminal statute are proved, before any conviction. And this includes Fleeing Police cases.
One of the elements of every criminal statute is called “criminal intent.” The law describes different levels of criminal intent. But without knowledge of a predicate fact, there can be no criminal intent. So knowledge is a threshold factual issue in many Fleeing cases.
The frequent issue is whether the person knew or reasonably should have known that a police officer wanted the person to stop. Of course, we humans are unable to read minds. We must communicate with each other in some way, in order to be understood correctly.
When we attempt to communicate, we often feel that we made our intentions clear and that the other’s failure to understand us is “unreasonable.” But that is not always true.
Whenever we see a reasonableness standard mentioned in a law, the law is attempting to impose a more objective standard for determining a person’s subjective “intent” (including “knowledge”). Cases sometimes refer to this as a “reasonable person standard.”
A police officer may indicate an intention to invoke the power of the state, and order a driver to stop by activating the take-down lights on the police car. If that did not work quickly enough, the police officer might activate the squad car siren, to provide an audible signal to pull over. Failing that, the officer might give a verbal command over the car’s PA speaker. And police have even more methods of communication available.
In a Fleeing – Other than a Motor Vehicle case, the police officer frequently will not have as many technology aids to communicate a stop order. Usually, they will simply make a verbal command, sometimes shouting in a commanding tone.
In many cases, the person did not stop, ot not quickly enough, because they did not know a police officer was near or wanted them to stop. If so, that person is not-guilty of this crime.
“intent to elude a peace officer” or “avoid arrest, detention or investigation”
In another common fact pattern in fleeing police cases, the person does stop but not fast enough to satisfy the police officer. The police officer may experience adrenaline-effects where time seems to go into slow-motion. Meanwhile the driver or pedestrian is experiencing real time. And since the laws of physics always trump human laws, a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion; and deceleration takes some amount of time. In this situation, the police officer may perceive events differently than the rest of us. But fortunately, these days we often have squad-car and body-cam video recordings, with time stamps.
Sometimes a driver has anxiety about whether an apparent traffic stop by a police officer is legit. (This law only requires stopping for real police, licensed, etc.) Or, the driver may be looking for a safe place to pull over. And here again, it’s possible for a police officer and the driver to perceive things differently.
But if the real issue is one of perception or interpretation, the law requires resolution of any doubt in favor of the driver, not the police officer. Why? Because one premise of any crime is intent (including knowledge). Therefore, the law requires the jury to view the facts and the situation from the point-of-view of the defendant (not the police).
“Because the innocent will flee violence and injustice as quickly as the guilty; fleeing cannot be true evidence of guilt.”Thomas Gallagher
Question about a Fleeing Police case?
You can call Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney Thomas Gallagher with questions about a Fleeing Police in Motor Vehicle case, or a Fleeing Police – Other than Vehicle case.